Washington, 27 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - An American space agency official says the U.S. shuttle Columbia, scheduled for launch Tuesday, does not have the equipment to dock with the damaged Russian Mir space station.
Shuttle-Mir program manager Frank Culbertson said yesterday that Columbia will be on a science mission with a space lab in the back and has no docking mechanism.
Culbertson said it would be difficult to replan Columbia's mission. He said there is no way the shuttle on this mission can physically dock with Mir or interact with it in any way.
The next U.S. shuttle capable of docking with Mir is scheduled for a visit to the Russian space station in September. Meanwhile, Mir has with it a three-man Russian Soyuz spacecraft that could be used to evacuate the crew.
Culbertson said Russian and U.S. space officials have concluded that the overall structural integrity of Mir is still adequate but that they are working on a more detailed analysis of the situation.